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THE Brexit disasters are coming thick and fast. As climate change accelerates, the Australian trade deal will fly inferior beef and lamb around the world to displace higher-quality Welsh and Scottish products, driving small farmers out of business. The RSPCA has warned Australia’s animal welfare standards are far below those of the EU and begged Boris Johnson not to sign the agreement. Australia allows barren battery cages, sow stalls, hot branding, sheep mutilation and doesn’t require slaughterhouse CCTV or food, water or temperature control for live animal exports.
Meanwhile, soft fruit crops will rot in the fields thanks to a shortage of EU seasonal workers. A Fife soft fruit and veg farmer, Iain Brown, said Scotland is falling short of the 10,000 fruit pickers needed to bring in this summer’s crops. Down in England’s new lorry park in Kent, Winterwood Farms has seen applications for seasonal work drop by 90% over the last two years. From the end of June, people who haven’t got pre-settled status can’t work. It’s no good hoping domestic workers will travel long distances to reach the fields, set up camp and engage in physically demanding work in all kinds of weather.
The haulage industry in Scotland has reported a shortage of 11,000 drivers due to Covid, Brexit and recent tax changes, which is hitting the supply of goods to shops and businesses and increasing prices.
The Scottish hospitality industry is reeling from staff shortages after EU nationals left and many domestic workers sought alternative work during the pandemic, forcing many businesses to limit customer numbers that will result in business failures.
Westminster has never cared about Scotland. We can make our own decisions only when we restore our independence. In the meantime, we can pelt rotten fruit at Mr Johnson next time he dares to venture north.
Leah Gunn Barrett, Edinburgh.
THE HARD CASH JUST ISN’T THERE
I AM grateful to Frances McKie (Letters, June 16) for her detailed list of recent Scottish economic and other successes.
UK exports in April 2021 were £49.4 billion and appear to be heading back to their pre-pandemic levels. There is no evidence so far that Brexit is doing any damage, however much flak continues to be aimed at the referendum result. Even the Australians think that a flood of exported meat into the UK is unlikely, so the fears of the Scottish farming community may well be unfounded. I will be buying Scottish beef, lamb and pork from my local butcher regardless. It is good to have a choice though.
How foreign-manufactured wind turbines help Scotland’s fiscal deficit is a calculation I would very much like to see. The 2020 rise in inward investment projects is very welcome. Notice in the latter case that the press around this success fails to mention the monetary value of the investments concerned. Doing so would illustrate how little is its contribution in relation to a pre-pandemic budget deficit in 2019/20 of more than £15bn.
It is indeed ironic that Ms McKie chooses to highlight the growth in UK national debt over the last 10 years. All efforts to contain or even reduce that debt have – unless memory serves me incorrectly – been furiously derided in Scotland as (choose your adjective) “Tory austerity”.
Ms McKie’s closing paragraph sums up the Scottish problem. It is easy to talk up a positive but vague and soft focus vision of Scotland. You can clearly see, though, that the hard cash just isn’t there.
Grant Ballantyne, Paisley.
ENGLISH-ONLY VOTES DO AFFECT US
JILL Stephenson (Letters, June 17) claims that Michael Gove’s proposal to end English Votes for English Laws (Evel) is intended to appease the SNP. Not so for several reasons, of which the most important is Mr Gove (and Boris Johnson’s focus) on a UNITED Kingdom which is now described, for instance, by the Commonwealth as “an island country that sits north-west of mainland Europe. It is made up of mainland Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and the northern part of the island of Ireland”, when just 12 months ago it consisted of “three countries plus the ‘province’ of NI”. For the UK to become the focus, a law such as Evel is a contradiction and an obstacle to Mr Gove’s ends.
In any event, Evel conceals its own anomalies, as there are some issues which appear to apply only to England, but which have implications for Scotland. For instance, if a motion is put to the House for NHS spending in England only, it may appear that Evel should apply, but this ignores the fact that any spending variation in England will have implications for the Scottish block grant.
Ms Stephenson then goes on to over-generalise wildly, claiming that “English MPs have no input into matters affecting only Scotland” – but with their numerical dominance they have plenty of input into tax, trade policy including the recent agreement with Australia and Brexit, and defence. Indeed, Mr Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons (80) exceeds the number of MPs sitting for Scottish constituencies for any party (59).
She is correct that devolution throws up significant anomalies as Tam Dalyell forecast, but when one part of a political union has the sort of numerical dominance that England enjoys, the democratic deficit for the other constituent parts (OK, Mr Gove, not nations) is substantially more significant.
Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.
COMPARE THE TWO GOVERNMENTS
STRUAN Stevenson (“The SNP Government’s catalogue of mistakes will soon come back to haunt it”, The Herald, June 17) and Guy Stenhouse (“Action, not words, are needed to solve ferries fiasco”, The Herald, June 14) bleat week after week about the shortcomings of the SNP Government. Much of what they say is true, but their writings would have more credibility if they balanced the SNP’s failings with those of the Westminster Government.
Apart from the successful vaccine roll-out, I find it hard to think of any successes of Boris Johnson’s Government. However, like Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Mr Johnson seems to be in continued favour with his largely English support.
If I can suggest a title for Mr Stevenson’s next epistle, it would be “Compare and contrast the failures of the two governments’’.
Sam Craig, Glasgow G11.
PROOF THE UK IS NOT A NATION
I HAVE tried to be tolerant in the interests of free speech and have regarded the incessant anti-SNP barrage of letters by Dr Gerald Edwards as an amusing distraction from serious debate. It does become a bit tiresome at times and I have to respond today to his assertion (Letters, June 16) that “the need for independence” is in some way linked with the SNP or Brexit. The case for independence is totally linked to the plight of our Scottish nation which has no opportunity to elect a government of its own choice. Neither the actions of the SNP nor the consequences of Brexit will change the situation; only the people of Scotland can rectify this democratic deficit.
Neither Britain nor the UK is a nation and anyone who doubts this should have their doubts dispelled this evening (June 18).
Willie Maclean, Milngavie.
DO NEW LAW OFFICERS BACK INDY?
THE Scottish Parliament has backed a motion seeking agreement to recommend to the Queen that Dorothy Bain QC and Ruth Charteris QC be appointed the new Scottish law officers; respectively lord advocate and solicitor general. Were both candidates asked for their opinions about the legal status of an independence referendum held without the consent of the Prime Minister? I’m sure both will have been asked, and surely both will have given an affirmative answer? Would they have been chosen otherwise? However, neither question nor answers will be acknowledged; we can expect evasion and fudge of a high order.
Another current item of legal news is the recent death, on May 31, of James Crawford, Professor Emeritus of International Law at the University of Cambridge. Prof Crawford was scathing about the Scottish Government’s claim that an independent Scotland would remain a member of such international organisations as the UN and the IMF. He claimed that the “overwhelming weight” of precedence pointed to Scotland being treated as a new state; meaning having to renegotiate some 14,000 separate treaties and applying afresh to join international bodies. Professor Crawford’s opinion does not die with him.
William Durward, Bearsden.
“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” has puzzled humans for generations, but even more puzzling is finding yourself, on a Wednesday afternoon on King’s Parade, asking a man who has just stepped out of a trash can after you’ve frantically waved at him through a tiny slot: “What came first, the busking or the bin?”
Charlie Cavey has become an iconic figure to the Cambridge community for years – yet he remains relatively unknown. Unlatching the bin from the inside to climb out, Cavey reveals himself as a sunburnt man in a pink Hawaiian shirt. He tells me he was going to get a coffee and returns with a domestic-style pink china mug. It seems that this randomness is integral to his character. “This must be about my twenty-first or twenty-second summer, and it all started because I was working for myself, punting on the quayside. I was on the quayside touting, and a bin lorry pulled up next to us, and he (the driver) went over to the bin. He reached in and opened it up and took the bin out and was emptying it in his lorry. I looked at this empty bin and thought ‘I think I could fit in there,’ and that’s pretty much what happened. He put the bin back, shut the bin and I said to my friend ‘watch this’ and reached in, found the latch and opened it. I couldn’t play the guitar at the time. I learnt it the following winter and so the following summer when we all got back and started punting again, I showed my friend a few songs and he said ‘why don’t you try and do that in your bin?’ I said it was logistically impossible, and he said ’no feed the neck of the guitar through the hole, and hey presto that’s it twenty years later.”
“I looked at this empty bin and thought ’I think I could fit in there”
A fixture well documented on social media and frequented by celebrities – Tyson Fury was seen singing along to Oasis with him last summer – he explains that “people walk along, they hear the music, they look around confused and then they see the arms sticking out the bin and think ‘What?’ and then they take pictures.” But it’s not all plain sailing. The University hasn’t taken kindly to him in the past. A Tab article in 2016 called him ‘the worst thing about Cambridge’ and in 2012, students were reprimanded by colleges for an incident involving stink bombs and bleach being thrown into the bin. Interestingly, Cavey seems to be one of the only buskers in central Cambridge that isn’t using an amplifier. I ask cautiously about his opinion of the university students, rightly expecting a negative response, but Cavey tells me “nine-nine point nine percent of it has been absolutely positive. If a busker played the same thirty or so songs outside my bedroom window, and it’s not just a bedroom, it’s like their flat, it’s their bedsit – for a year, I would understand, I can completely empathise with their annoyance. Sadly their reactions have let them down, but it’s only a handful. And it’s really only going to be these guys who live here. And it’s alright, it happens, it’s merely a lack of ability to communicate on their part.”
I ask him what’s changed over the years, if reactions and song choices have evolved, but he is most frustrated about the evolution of bin design. He used to busk by on Bridge Street and pick which one to play in at random, “I used to use them all along that street, it didn’t matter, it depended on how I felt that day. Then one day I turned up and they were moving them all. They were replacing them, I don’t know how long you’ve been here but before they were aluminium they were fibreglass and so I had to buy my own.”
The last twenty years have witnessed a series of bins and music, but Cavey’s career does not consist of just busking: “for the last four years before lockdown I ran a kids music club called Mr Baboon’s Dancing Tunes and I’ve managed to find a proper job Monday to Friday now at the school where my kids attend.” Cavey seems incredibly content with his lifestyle; he’s not interested in releasing music or changing careers anytime soon. “I started to realise how much fun it really is, because I’m forty-two and just through wisdom and having lots of other jobs I’ve kind of realised that this is one of the nicest ways to live, the money might be less but the lifestyle is better. Because I get out of bed when I want, I start when I want…I don’t answer to anybody and I get to play music and make people happy which is pretty ideal for me.”
“I’ve kind of realised that this is one of the nicest ways to live, the money might be less but the lifestyle is better”
I ask if this lifestyle is a heavily communal one, if there is camaraderie or competition between the buskers. He’s not massively involved: “because I’ve got two children of my own, I come into town, busk and go home. I know a few of them, though having seen them and liked what they’d done and gone over and introduced myself. But maybe three or four, there probably is a nice community and there are a lot, you’ll see a lot more a lot closer to summer.”
His laid back attitude is admirable, and a career in busking seems to never afford a dull moment. In fact, he’s met Bob Geldof, Carol Vorderman, Gregory Porter. Crowds of people take an interest in his unusual busking format and remember him for summers to come, partly because of the unusual format of the bin, but also because it is clear that this is someone who does what they love, however eccentric. Love him or hate him, he’ll never know anyway, in his continual unflappable way he tells me,“I turned the news off eight or nine years ago. I hear everything from mouth, it makes it a much nicer world.”
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Team GB’s Cheavon Clarke has been given more than enough signs that boxing possibly wasn’t for him – from almost dying twice to quitting the sport all together and becoming a lorry driver.
“To be honest I’m just relieved. The job’s not done, when the job’s done I’ll be excited,” Cheavon said.
The heavyweight boxer has his sight firmly fixed on a gold medal but four years ago Cheavon, known to his friends as Chev, was driving a lorry for a living.
Cheavon made a strong start in boxing and at the tender age of 18 years old he was winning championships.
A ruptured appendix months into his budding career which almost killed him couldn’t even stop the Jamaica-born fighter’s prospects.
After a six-month break he continued on a tear through the sport. Frustrating decisions against him and an unsuccessful trial for Team GB had the star contemplating his future in the sport, but he still couldn’t be stopped.
Cheavon competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games representing Jamaica, but it was a surprising loss at the tournament that finally put his boxing career on pause.
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” I lost and I shouldn’t have,” Cheavon said.
“To make it worse everyone was saying ‘that was terrible, I should have won that’ so I was like ‘I’m putting up the gloves’ and stopped boxing for two years.”
As one of the best young boxing talents in the UK, Cheavon put it on pause, taking a lorry driving job delivering to Homebase and B&Q.
During his hiatus between 2014 and 2016, the incoming Olympian said he “loved” his new job.
“I was making money,” Cheavon laughed.
He continued: “Up until December 2015 I didn’t train or do nothing. It was great, I loved lorry driving, any time boxing gets on my nerves, back in the lorry.
“I just go on what I feel, if I enjoy something I do it, I’m not a slave to my trade, I do what I enjoy. It was fun, it was really great.”
Cheavon said his friends constantly pestered him to get back into boxing during his time away and at the close of 2015 his coach, out of the blue, told him to prepare for a March bout.
Before he knew it Cheavon was back competing again at a high level picking up medals and finally landing a spot with Team GB where he competed at the European Championships winning a silver medal in 2017.
The boxer who only started boxing as a teenager looking for something to do in the summer, became Team GB’s number one fighter.
On his start in boxing Cheavon said: ” I used to play football and that was my thing, I was passionate differently about football, people said I should box because I would always be shadow boxing.
“It was one summer my friends were trying to convince me to go to a weights gym and I was like weights are pointless, it’s boring then I saw the boxing club down the road from me.
“So I tricked my friend into going with me.”
On his rise to the top Cheavon has crossed paths with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Rio Ferdinand and even Prince Charles.
The prospect of being a global boxing star along with other British fighters Joshua and Daniel Dubois doesn’t phase Cheavon, he’s focused on one goal.
“I know I can beat anybody in the world,” Cheavon said.
He continued: “Right now the focus is going to the Olympics and executing and performing.
“I don’t care about nothing else. They could offer me a million pounds, nope, Olympic medal.”
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